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By Theresa Goodwin

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State media staff are being assured that every action is being taken to avoid contagion and keep them and their families safe after an ABS evening shift employee tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

Minister of Information Melford Nicholas told Observer that some ABS workers were being shunned by members of the public since the news broke on Thursday.

He said he understood the “emotional disruption” and planned to increase his department’s engagement with staff and health officials. Nicholas pledged that “all resources will be applied” to assist.

“It is not a time for any elevated alarm. The individual who was diagnosed with Covid-19 has had limited contact with a number of persons on the evening shift and those persons are being treated accordingly,” Nicholas said.

He said the ministry will do whatever it takes to restore calm and ensure staff that the entire government is behind them.

Several ABS employees are now at home while others are working from another location to prevent contagion.

The company’s offices on Cross Street have been temporarily closed for sanitisation, prompting anxiety among some staff who fear exposing loved ones at home to the virus.

 Some workers have claimed that, prior to the confirmed case, adherence to Covid-19 protocols at the state entity has been lax and that thorough sanitisation was not being carried out frequently.

 However, a statement released by ABS on Thursday said all guidelines had been thoroughly complied with.

“We have been diligent in ensuring staff members adhere to the prescribed Covid-19 protocols and procedures. We have also ensured that the building has been cleaned twice daily to ensure the safety of all staff,” a statement from General Manager Erna-Mae Brathwaite read.

 The cases involving the unnamed state media worker bring the number of active Covid-19 cases in Antigua and Barbuda to three.

 Prime Minister Gaston Browne also commented on the issue over the weekend indicating that there is now evidence of domestic spread of the virus.

Browne said, at this point, he would not be surprised if there is soon an increase in the country’s coronavirus figures.

 “It shows very clearly that a single irresponsible person could actually become a major risk to an entire nation and could actually create community spread by knowingly or unknowingly spreading the Covid-19 virus,” Browne added.

Meanwhile, Brathwaite told Observer yesterday that ABS was “operating effectively with reduced staff from an offsite location”. The main building has been sanitised and deep cleaned and “additional enhancements” are being made to existing arrangements, she said, as the agency awaits the green light to return.

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